Mitchell Starc has confirmed Australia’s top players are not prepared to contemplate the offer of multi-year contracts from Cricket Australia – in exchange for skipping the IPL – until a new pay deal is struck between the board and the Australian Cricketers’ Association.
A report in the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday revealed that CA’s team performance manager Pat Howard had individually approached five of Australia’s most valuable players – Starc, the captain Steven Smith, David Warner, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins – with the offer of three-year contracts in exchange for giving up the prospect of playing in the IPL during the players’ official leave period.
In the final stages of his rehabilitation from a foot fracture ahead of next month’s Champions Trophy in England, Starc responded to the question of whether he had been offered a multi-year deal with the words “that’s what it says in the papers” before stating that he was uninterested in further talks until current pay talks are settled.
“It wasn’t in the discussions this year when I decided to pull out [of the IPL], going forward it’s between the ACA and CA to come up with an MOU first and foremost, and then we’ll talk about contracts once that’s done,” Starc said.
“That’s what the ACA are there for and we’ve got full confidence in them. We have discussions with them from time to time with different stages of the discussions between CA and the ACA. But the ACA definitely have the full support of the male and female groups and that’s where it stands at this stage.”
Little more than six weeks remain before the current MOU is due to expire, with both the players and the board remaining very much at odds over the shape of the next agreement. The ACA are adamant in their desire to maintain the fixed revenue percentage model that has been in place over the past two decades, while CA have been equally trenchant in declaring the model has “done its job” and needs to be replaced by an agreement that recasts the players less as partners of CA than employees on fixed wages.
Should an agreement not be reached by the deadline, there is the possibility that the current MOU will have to be rolled over for another year. A more extreme scenario is for the players to fall out of contract and deal with CA on a series-by-series basis – they have already indicated their unwillingness to take part in promotional and marketing duties for the home Ashes series in the absence of a fresh MOU. The two parties are due to meet again on Friday.
Ahead of the Australian squad’s departure for England, Starc spoke warmly about the prospect of playing alongside his pace counterparts James Pattinson, Hazlewood and Cummins. He also expressed hope that a way might be found for the quartet to play in the same Ashes XI alongside Australia’s No. 1 spin bowler Nathan Lyon, noting that Pattinson in particular had recently bloomed into a highly capable batsman.
“I think the fact we can all bat presents a stronger case for that,” Starc said. “You’ve got Nathan Lyon who’s the ‘GOAT’, I can’t see him being left out, you’ve got to pick him, he’s a world-class spinner who’s taken wickets all round the world. Jimmy Pattinson, I think he’s averaging about 80 in his last 10 first-class games, Josh very capable with the bat, Cummins very capable, I know what end of the bat [is up], so it’s a stronger case where we can all bat.
“The other way to look at it is if we’ve got four guys fit we can all work off each other and if some guys have high workloads bring the other one in and keep everyone fresh. There’s a couple of options there. Now that I’m pretty much fit to have the four of us ready to go is great. Jimmy’s been bowling really well in England, Patty bowled really well in India in the Test and then the IPL, and Josh is back bowling.
“So the four of us are ready to go and it’s exciting. We’ve come through the ranks together but haven’t had the opportunity to be in the same squad together with our injuries over that time. It’s an exciting time for the four of us but for Australian cricket too, to get together and build a strong cartel for the next five or so years.”
In physical terms, Starc said his latest period of rehabilitation had been less problematic than the foot and ankle surgeries that sidelined him for a large chunk of 2015-16. “It was only a six- or seven-week layoff from bowling, so much easier to come back from than the last injury, which was more like seven months,” he said. “That’s been positive, hasn’t taken too long to get some rhythm back into the bowling, body’s feeling good, spending some good time in the gym and getting some strength back. It’s been a good period of rehab.”